BEREA — This will be Lila Bellando's last go-round as the director of the Berea Craft Festival.
For 32 years, Bellando, 72, has helped oversee the festival, the town's signature event celebrating crafts and music. It's a festival that emphasizes the demonstration of the creative process as much as the finished product.
Many of the beautiful crafted wares collected over the years fill Bellando's Berea home. A cherry wood bowl — with wood the color of dark syrup — has a curved shape that moves in waves beneath the hands, terminating in squared-off handles on either side, a marriage of the beautiful with the practical. A set of three columns in a living room corner features crafted birds competing for a nugget of turquoise. Near a dining table is a body shield made of South Seas shells that glint in the morning light.
For the last four years Lila Bellando has been aided in putting on the festival by her daughter, Tara Bellando.
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"It is full-time for six months," Lila Bellando said.
While the festival is a big day for the more than 125 vendors expected, festival attendance can vary according to weather conditions.
The craft festival site, the Historic Indian Fort Theater, gives attendees — who numbered 5,300 last year when it rained every day, but topped out one year at 9,000 — plenty of room to stroll, munch and listen.
"It's a strolling venue," Tara Bellando said. "... We engage every sector of our community — our college, our citizens, our retailers. I'm kind of proud of that.
"It's a family affair," she added. "It comes from a love of doing community festivals and of craft. There's this passion you don't ever let go of, promoting that aesthetic."
But she says it's time for her parents — mother Lila and father Richard — who operated the now-defunct Churchill Weavers, to have some time to themselves.
"I would love to see my folks have a spring and summer that was completely their own," Tara Bellando said.
Lila Bellando was president of Churchill Weavers, the Berea company that had been in operation for 85 years when it closed in 2007 and was once the largest hand weaver in America. She is also a former state school board member and for six years was president of the nine-state Southern Highland Craft Guild.
But the last few years, much of her time has been consumed by the craft festival.
"When everything is in and all set up, then I can breathe a sigh of relief," Lila Bellando said. "... We appeal to the folks who really want handmade items. When we hear of a craft person who didn't legitimately make their work, we don't invite them back."
Tara Bellando, 48, expanded on the appeal of handmade items and supporting the craftsmen who design and create them for sale: "You either know that you're buying an import, or you know that you're buying something made in America by hand. ... Growing up in a handmade world, I'm so grateful for that."
The city of Berea and its tourism commission will take over running the festival for 2014, said city administrator Randy Stone.
"The summer fair has become a signature event," Stone said. "It has become a family event. It brings a lot of people from surrounding states into Berea. It's a big shopping weekend in Berea."
That's important to carry on, Stone said.
"Berea is usually known for Boone Tavern, our crafts and especially our summer fair. Economically, it's very important to us."
Berea Craft Festival
When: July 12-14; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Historic Indian Fort Theater, Big Hill Road
Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, children under 12 are free
What's new? Organizer Tara Bellando said that more vegetarian food options will be available this year.